“I offer you no recipes, much less do I intend to leave you a list of things to do. Still, I would ask you, as you carry out in communion your demanding mission as the bishops of Colombia, to maintain your serenity,” he encouraged.
Though the devil continues to sow weeds, “imitate the patience of the Lord of the harvest and trust in the good quality of his grain. Learn from his patience and generosity. He takes his time, because his loving gaze sees far into the distance.”
When love grows weak we become impatient and anxious, making ourselves busy with many things as we are “hounded by the fear of failure,” he said.
Instead, “believe above all in the smallness of God’s seeds. Trust in the power hidden in his yeast. Let your hearts be drawn to the great beauty that leads us to sell everything we have, in order to possess that divine treasure,” he urged.
Speaking more about priests, who he said are on “the front lines” of the Church, the Pope said that the first gift a bishop can give his priests is to be a father to them – the physical and affective closeness of their bishop is a vital and urgent need.
And although in this digital age it is easy to reach each other instantly, the paternal heart of a bishop should not be content with this impersonal and formal means of communication, but be truly concerned with where and how his priests are living.
“Are they truly living as Jesus’ disciples? Or have they found other forms of security, like financial stability, moral ambiguity, a double life, or the myopic illusion of careerism?”
Pope Francis also appealed to bishops to show concern for the lives of consecrated men and women, who represent “an evangelical rebuke to worldliness.”
“They are called to purify every residue of worldly values in the fire of the Beatitudes lived sine glossa and in total self-abnegation for the service of others.” They should not be looked at as merely “‘useful resources’ for the works of the apostolate,” he said, instead hearing in them the “Bride’s cry of consecrated love: ‘Come, Lord Jesus.’”
The formation of the laity should not be forgotten either, Francis said, noting that they are the ones responsible not only for the strength of their faith communities, “but in great part for the Church’s presence in the area of cultural, political and economic life.”
When it comes to the history of the Church in Colombia, he asked the bishops “not to be afraid to touch the wounded flesh of your own history and that of your people.”
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This path isn’t easy, but it’s necessary, he explained. Colombia needs that attention in order “to sustain its courage in taking the first step towards definitive peace and reconciliation, towards abdicating the method of violence and overcoming the inequalities at the root of so much suffering.”
Speaking of the “first step” that must be taken on the path to peace and reconciliation, he said, “God goes before us. We are only branches, not the vine.”
He warned them about silencing the voice of God or falling under the delusion that the success of the mission depends on their own “meagre virtues,” saying that prayer should be fundamental in the life of a bishop.
Instead of relying on themselves or others, he urged praying “fervently when you have so little to give, so that you will be granted something to offer to those who are close to your hearts as pastors.”
In his lengthy speech, the Pope also spoke about the Church in Amazonia, the southernmost region of Colombia, encouraging the bishops not to abandon it and the “profound wisdom of the indigenous peoples.”
He said they should also show particular sensitivity to the Afro-Colombian roots of the country, which have had a great influence on Colombia.